Throwing Up My Hands

There are times in life when we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to step back, try to let go of our anger and take a deep breath.

Sometimes we have to admits that our continued struggle against a particular foe is pointless. We have to release our determination to “win.” We must, at those times, admit that the war is over. We must learn to embrace our enemy.

For example, let me tell about me and Rusty. We have been at odds for months.

It all started when a bought myself a clear acrylic bird feeder that sticks on my picture window. I loved watching the birds! I used to have a long feeder that hung out on a pole in front of the house. It was great.

Right up until the April night when a bear ripped it out of the ground and walked away with everything except the steel pole, which was bend all the way to the ground.


I was delighted when Amazon and I worked together (again!) to find me a window feeder. I was so excited with it that I bought another one! And my grandkids and I have spent hours watching the lovely little birdies that flock to the window for food.


And the feeders were set way up high. The bottom of my window is a good 10 feet off the ground, and the feeders are three feet up the window. No bear could get into those things!

I relaxed. I was thrilled with my cleverness. Take that, Mother Nature! You’re no match for a smart Nonni, are you?

Ah, the joys of birdwatching from the comfort of my living room!

“Look, Ellie! I see a chickadee! And a male cardinal! And a junco! And a big, fat squirrel…..”  WHAT?!

red up high

        Note the squirrel tracks in the yard. Also notice the BIRD SEED spread on the snow.                        For the squirrels.


The squirrels recently discovered all that beautiful birdseed in my window feeders. At first I was completely baffled. How the hell did he get up there?

Aha. The lilac bush is close enough for them to jump onto the windowsill and the up to the feeder.

I wasn’t having it, though, oh no. If I could outsmart a bear, I could outsmart a little rodent, right?

First try: I hung a string of brass bells on the window, touching the feeder. Clever, clever old lady!  I watched the window carefully. I was smug. I saw him approaching…..

The cute little red squirrel hopped up onto the window and “jangle, jangle, jangle”! He froze. The he reached out one little paw and jangled it again. He grinned at me through the window. Then he jumped up, ate 30 dollars worth of seeds, and hopped back down. He rang the bells at me on his way out.

Next attempt: I left the window open just a crack. My dog Lennie has a voice that can break glass, I’m not kidding. His bark is so high pitched that it makes my teeth hurt. So, I figured, let the mighty hunter dog scare him away. I sat back, ready to triumph.

“Red” jumped up onto the lilac. Lennie growled. I smiled. Red leapt onto the window ledge. Lennie barked. I covered my ears. Red scrambled up onto the feeder. Lennie jumped at the window, knocking over a picture and two wooden trains. BAM! CRASH! HOWL!

Through the cacophony, I heard the sound of chewing. Red was in the feeder, happily gorging on the sunflower seeds. I wrestled Lennie back down to the floor, the two of us panting and growling. Why wasn’t the squirrel afraid?

“What the hell?!” I yelled at him. “Why aren’t you scared?!” He stuffed another handful of seeds in one cheek, knocked on the glass with his tiny knuckles and winked as he strolled away.

He rang the damn bells on his way by.

A couple of days went by. I refilled the feeder every four hours. I would NOT give up my birdwatching.

I googled “squirrel proofing” for ideas. I plotted. I planned.  I armed myself with a spray bottle and hid behind the curtains, waiting for him to show up.

He jumped into the feeder. I flung open the window and sprayed him right in his tiny face. Bam! Take that, you little red thief!

He jumped, seemingly in a panic, into the lilac. I stepped back. “VICTORY!”

He jumped back into the feeder. I flung open the window and spayed him even harder, aiming for that little black eyeball. Direct hit!

He jumped into the lilac and down to the ground. I stepped back. I waited.

He jumped back into the feeder.

This went on for a full ten minutes. Back and forth. Jump, grab seeds, spray in the face, jump down, jump back up, grab some seeds, spray in the face. Finally I ran out of water. I slumped to the floor in defeat. Red cleaned out the feeder.

The other day I covered the lilac with a sheet and attached it to the window. No squirrel.

Then the wind kicked up, the sheet billowed in the air in front of the window. Ellie shrieked in terror, Lennie barked in reaction to her shriek, Johnny burst into a wail when the dog barked.

Red took the opportunity to jump into the feeder.

I put a full bowl of bird seed on the snowy ground in front of the house. I sprinkled seeds on the snowbank. I have thrown almonds at the squirrel. I’ve yelled at him. I have moved the feeders three times.

No dice.

This morning I woke up to see this.

Red in the feeder

Morning, Nonni! Nice day for a healthy breakfast, no?

So I am admitting defeat.

We are no longer at war with the red squirrels in the feeder or the huge gray squirrels who have eaten every suet cake all winter.

I am embracing their furry cuteness. I am learning to admire the courage and tenacity of these wild creatures who are determined to survive.

The truth is, if I had to work that hard to live, I’m not sure I’d make it.

So come on, Red. I’ll put Lennie outside for now.




A Parable For Today


Once there was a village. It was deep in the forest, in a place filled with trees and grasses and beautiful birds.

The people of the village worked hard, but they had a good life. There was enough food and there were safe places to sleep.

A stream ran through the village. It was clean and clear, but it was powerful, too. The people used the water to drink, to stay clean and to cool off on hot days. Every adult used the stream, and some of the kids learned to swim there.

As time went on, and the generations passed, the little village grew in size and prosperity. The settlement became a town, with paved roads and stores and groups of houses. The stream still ran through it, winding gently along the main street. Some people still used the water for everyday chores, although most people had plumbing in their houses by now.

The stream became a place for recreation and sport, but was no longer key to the survival of the townspeople. It was just a nice little relic of the past. A good place for picnics on hot summer days.

One day someone decided that it would be fun to dam up the water. He wanted to make a pool where people could not only fish, but also swim, dive and jump off the steep banks. It sounded like fun, and so it was done.

As the years passed, people got used to the pool and to the bigger, more powerful flow of water that moved through town below the dam. Some people used the pool but feared the faster stream. Some loved  all of the water and used it everyday.

Life went on.

A few more generations passed, and another water-user decided that it would be fun to narrow the flow of water below the dam. “It will go faster,” he thought, “It will have more power.” When he presented the idea to the townspeople, some told him that they thought the water was powerful enough already.

“We have water in our homes to drink and bathe. We have a pool for fun, and a quick running stream for excitement. Why would we need a more powerful flow of water?”

The water-user and his friends thought about this for a bit. They really wanted to play around with stronger, faster water. How could they convince people to let them have more a powerful water source to play with?

“I know!” said one water-user. “The water can protect us! If invaders come to our town, we can escape quickly on the fast moving stream!”

People are funny. Even though the town had never once been invaded in its entire history, the threat of war was enough to convince the leaders to invest in the narrower, stronger stream.

Little by little, year by year, the water-users of the town continued to work on the pool and the stream. Most people paid little attention to the changes that were made. They were busy with jobs and families and school and sports.

Slowly and steadily the water grew higher, faster and less controlled. It began to frighten people when two small children were swept to their deaths one winter evening. A few people suggested that it might be time to slow the water down. But many people enjoyed swimming in the pool, kayaking on the upper stream and even riding the white waters of the swift lower channel. So an argument broke out.

“Let’s not overreact,” they said. “We need the water for fun. And what would happen if the running water in our pipes ever stopped, or if dangerous invaders came through? We need our water! It’s our right to have this water!”

Heads nodded. Beards were stroked. Nothing was changed.

Every year that passed saw slight changes to the riverbed and the water’s flow.

And every year that passed saw more people dying from the increasingly powerful waters. At times of heavy rain, the lower stream would flood. Entire families were swept away, scooped right out of their beds by the raging torrent.

Now the people of the town began to complain to their leaders.

“We’re afraid of this water! It’s just too much. Something MUST be done!”

The leaders were confused, unsure of what to do. But the water-users offered to help.

“We know what to do” they said. “We will offer free swimming lessons to every person in town! We will sell fabulous water wings in the local stores.”

That quieted things down for a bit, and the demands to slow the water faded away. But not for long.

After a few more years,  the water-users had created waterfalls, rapids and even faster and narrower streams running through town.

“So much safety!!!” they cheered. “No invaders will ever be able to defeat us!”

Then one spring, without warning, the weather turned terrible and stormy. The rains fell for weeks on end. The waters in the pool rose ever higher. The stream below the dam became a raging, screaming whirlpool. Some people in town were terrified, but others found it exciting.

Exciting, that is, right up until the moment when the flood burst through its banks and smashed in all the windows at the nearby school. As the children screamed and drowned, all of the adults raced to the rescue. They cried as they pulled the drowning children through the broken glass. They treated the survivors with tenderness and care. They sobbed and they grieved as they buried the little ones who could not be saved.

They were united in their sorrow and in their determination to make the town a safer place. One grieving mother asked,

“Now should we do something to slow down the water? Now can we drain the pool?”

The town leaders and the water-users thought about it. They were just as sad as everyone else, but they weren’t ready to let go of their best defense against potential dangers. They weren’t ready to let go of all the fun that the water offered.

“How about if we rebuild the school so that it has no windows anymore?” they suggested. This would certainly take care of the problem of water breaking the windows.

The school was rebuilt without a single window. The children and the teachers went back in to recreate their learning space in the darkness. They huddled there in fear, but they hoped that the leaders were right and that now at last they were safe.

But one year the raging river flooded again, and this time it was the door that was broken. More children and teachers died.

Again, the town grieved and wept and swore to make things safer.

This time they bricked up all the doors and put a locked bulkhead on the roof to let the children and teachers in. Every morning, the children watched as their teachers pulled the bulkhead door open. Every morning, they climbed down into the darkness.

And when the bulkhead was swept away in the next flood, the town leaders gathered once again.

“Now what?” they asked the water-users. “Now how do we keep our children safe?”

This time they decided that every classroom should contain a boat. A special safety boat that would be deployed only in the event of another flood.

By now they knew that the river was out of control, that the cataract could not be contained, that the school would once again be hammered by the deadly force of the water.

They put their hope in the boats.

When one timid child asked why they didn’t try to slow the water instead of imprisoning the kids in a school filled with rising water, the leaders only patted her on the head and told her to leave it to the adults.

I know, I know. I am not subtle. And I’m clearly not a fiction writer. But today I watched America’s children marching out of their classrooms because they are terrified that they will be murdered in the place that should be the safest place in their lives. Some of them were babies, as young as third or fourth grade. They had tears on their cheeks. I watched, I sobbed, I paced. I am a mother, a grandmother, a teacher. My entire life is about nurturing and protecting children.

Now I am watching them fight to protect themselves. I can’t get over my anger, rage, sorrow and shame. I WILL march on the 24th. I will scream, yell, cry and clap. And I WILL vote very, very carefully.



My Father’s Hands

My father was a builder. He could build a shelf, a shed, a stool. He could turn an unfinished cellar into a beautiful bedroom, laundry room, rec room and bathroom. My father had hands that could turn a simple piece of wood into a cross for the local church.

My father’s hands were strong, capable, rough to the touch.

They were gentle when they cradled his children. They were strong when they were asked to move rocks in the backyard.

When my sons were small, my Dad built each of them a little wooden train. The cars connected with a simple peg and hole design. Each train had an engine, a set of following cars, and a small caboose. Each had the name of one son carved into it.

I watched my boys play with those wooden trains. They drove them down the hall, across the kitchen, over a mountain of stacked books. The little wooden wheels rolled effortlessly through our house. The engines were crashed together, driven down our front steps, and taken out into the yard on warm summer days.

My father laughed with pleasure when he saw his grandsons racing the trains, crashing them into walls and taken them apart over and over again. “They’re toys,” he said when I worried about the boys breaking them. “They’re supposed to be played with! Let them play.”

So I did. I let them play. I let my beautiful boys use those wooden trains to create new worlds and gain control of those worlds. I held my tongue when I wanted to tell them to be careful. I stopped myself from putting the little trains up on a shelf.

And my boys grew up. The wooden trains were left behind, with the hot wheels and the books and the leggos.

When I knew that they had truly grown and gone, I carefully picked up each little train car. I dusted them, cleaned them with lemon oil, gently attached each car to it’s neighbor. I placed them up on a shelf, surrounded by my favorite photos and souvenirs of long ago vacations.

And there they sat, for too many years.

But now I have my grandchildren in my house. I have a toy box, a book shelf filled with favorite stories, baskets of dress up clothes and stuffed animals.

And the wooden trains have come back out.

This morning as I watched the kids at play, I looked up to see the baby, little Johnny, holding one of those wooden train engines in his hand. And it hit me with the force of all that love and sorrow and joy.

His little hand, the hand that contains the essence of his great grandfather, was rolling the train across my floor. He was cooing and grinning and giggling with happiness. I watched my sweet baby Johnny as he lifted the wooden toy to his mouth and then held it out to me. He seemed to be saying, “Hey! Would you look at this!!! A TRAIN!”

I looked at his little hand, his dimpled knuckles and chubby wrists. And I saw my boys right there in front of my. My own sweet little ones, racing those trains across this very same floor.

And I saw the hands of my father. Those capable, gentle, strong hands, creating years and decades of pleasure for those who would come after him. I saw his hands right there over Johnny’s. I saw the hands of my boys, holding those same little trains in the very same way.

What a gift.

Today I saw my Dad, gone now for more than ten years. I saw him smiling at my little grandson, guiding him as he learned how to roll that wooden train across the floor of my living room.

What a gift.

My father’s hands, and the hands of my baby Johnny.

Johnny train


A Letter To the Parkland Teens


Dear young activists,

First of all, I am so sorry. I don’t know how to address you. To this 62 year old grandmother, you are children. But I see your strength and courage in the face of tragedy, and I know that you are already grown. To this retired teacher, you are students. But as I watch you lead this lost country toward a better future, I know that you are our teachers.

So I will not call you “children” or “students”. I will go with “young activists,” as I send you this letter.

Dear young activists,

My heart is broken for you. You should NEVER have had to cower in fear in your classrooms. You should never have had to text “goodbye” to your families. You should never have had to bury your friends.  I grieve for you and with you. I wish that my tears could wash away this terror and this pain.

But my dear young powerful Americans,

I thank you. I have been fighting for sensible gun control in this country for so many years. I took my then teen aged daughter to the Million Mom March back in 2000. In those early, innocent days, we were fighting to limit access to handguns.  No one had even imagined semi-automatic rifles.

Can you even imagine?

My dear young survivors,

I want to hug you. I want to take care of you. I am old enough be your grandma. Please remember that even as you call upon all of that incredible youthful energy and rage and fire, you are still only human. Take care of yourself.

I can’t make you a nice plate of pasta, as I constantly wish I could, but I can offer you these few words of advice, taken from my many years of activist work:

  1. Trust yourselves. Stick together. When outside forces seek to weaken you by comparing you to each other or singling one of you out, stay strong, stay true, stay together. You will never find better friends or allies than those who stand with you now.
  2. Keep to your message. The media and the public will try to move you onto other topics, other problems, other issues. Be true to your cause.
  3. Take care of yourselves!! Sleep. Rest. Eat good food. Eat delicious but bad-for-you food. Laugh. Cry. Watch some mindless TV. Recharge. I know too well that we all operate like rechargeable batteries. Don’t let yourselves be drained.
  4. Don’t listen to anyone other than each other. Take every bit of adult advice, suggestion and guidance with a big old grain of salt, including this one. YOU know who you are, and what you need to do.
  5. Let us help you as we can. Let us send you money, but don’t listen when we tell you how to spend it. Let us drive you to your interview, but don’t let us give you a script.

My dear young activists,

I’m sorry that you find yourselves where you are.  I’m so happy to find you in the place where we most need you. You have a very rare and unique opportunity to change the world for the better. And that puts all of you in a very vulnerable place.

I wish you all success and strength and power. I wish you peace, and healing and an end to your sorrow. I wish you a safe place to learn and to grow.

And when the limelight fades, I wish you lives of ordinary beauty and everyday joy. I wish you moments of reflection when you can look back and think, “I made the world better.”

We will march with you on March 24th. We will continue this long, long fight for sanity and safety. 

Love and thanks,

One inspired Nonni



I’m Thinking of Writing a Cookbook

I actually am thinking about writing a cookbook.

I need a source of additional income, and my only two reasonable skills are cooking and writing. Hence: a cookbook!

I know, I know. The market is absolutely flooded with cookbooks right now.

But MINE will be special.

You see, I have been experimenting with some truly unique recipes.

Here’s the backstory.

My grandson Johnny loves to eat. His nicknames include “Johnny Cheeks”, “Big Goomba” and “Johnny Pork Chop,” At a mere nine months old, the kid can chow down with the best of them.

johnny's first pastina

Good for him, right? Nothing makes Nonni happier than feeding babies.

The thing is, he’s still an infant. He’s supposed to be getting his nutrition mostly from breast milk. His mother is a milk producer par excellence. Think Holstein and you get the picture. She has enough of nature’s perfect nutrition to feed a whole barnful of Johnnys. She wants him to have her milk. She says it’s the best possible food for him.

He doesn’t particularly agree. Maybe he doesn’t want to seem immature, you know? Or maybe once you taste meatballs there’s no going back. I’m not sure.

All I know is that my boss  daughter leaves me 8 ounces of fresh mother’s milk every day, and my job is to get it into the Goomba. I’ve tried his usual bottle, a sippy cup, a straw, a spoon, and a bottle with handles he can use to feed himself.

No dice. No matter what I try, he pushes it aside and reaches for the nearest ham sandwich.

So I have become an expert at hiding breast milk in everyday foods.

Oatmeal in the morning? Sure! We cool it off with breast milk. Pastina? Yup, breast milk goes in there, too. Scrambled eggs with spinach and breast milk? One of his faves.

I have even given him risotto with carrots, peas and chicken. Made with….you guessed it. Breast milk.

Can’t you just imagine how awesome my cookbook will be once I pull it all together? How unique, how different? How useful?

I’ll need super shiny, fancy photos to grace every page. I figure I know enough cute babies to pose them with my breastmilk and maple sugar pancakes. They can even give the testimonials for each dish.

Johnny oatmeal

“Mmmmmmm. Numnah!”

Naturally, I’ll need to come up with chic hipster names for each recipe. I read “Bon Appetite.” I know how this works. You have to include at least one non-English word in each title, and it has to be served “with” something.  All the new restaurants and cookbooks feature items like “Wild boar ragout with chanterelles and persimmon sauce.”

I have a few recipes already, and plan to spend the next three months perfecting others. Right up until the Pork Chop is fully weaned.

How do these sound to you? Delicious? Be honest. What do you think?

“Bananes frites with mother’s milk and fresh blueberry sauce.”

“Best of the Breast omelette with mushrooms.”

“No Cow Juice For You Fruit Shakes- a healthy mix of Mom’s pride and fresh fruit.”

“Pastina con latte materno.”

“Risotto a la Mamma Mia.”

I think it will catch on. I can’t wait to start working on desserts. Just think of the creamy custards!

What now?

It’s so hard to write at this moment in time.

What do I reflect upon? Do I continue to scream my rage about the slaughter of our children in their classrooms? I feel that I have to. Until we come to a place where common sense has ruled, I feel obligated to keep on screaming.

But my throat is sore. My heart is sore. My mind is sore.

I have signed every petition, sent money to every gun control group I can find. I am a part of Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Never Again, March for Our Lives. I will march in Boston on Mar. 24th.

I WILL keep on screaming.

But. In the meantime.

Children are our purest measure of ourselves. Our own children, our grandchildren. These are our own personal futures. We all want to feel eternal. Our beautiful children give us that belief.

My little grandchildren give me the strength to keep on screaming. Even while I am braiding Ellie’s beautiful brown hair, I am screaming inside, “Take away the guns that might kill her.”  Even as I rock my sweet little Johnny in my arms, I find myself screaming, “Keep him safe! Let him be safe.”

When we have children, we believe that our love will protect them. When we create our loving, supportive families, we think that it’s enough to keep our children secure and to let them grow into adulthood.

We can’t believe that one depressed, angry, lonely young man could tear apart all that love. All that joy. All that sweet, uplifting hope.

But we are, of course, wrong.

I keep trying to write. I keep trying to post funny stories about my grandchildren. How funny it is to see my sweet little Ellie, at all of 2 1/2 years, asking me, “So how is your Momma feeling? Is she getting better and better?”

I want to make you laugh as I write about the challenges of toilet training with a sassy little toddler. I want to tell you funny little stories about baby Johnny learning to crawl.

But I can’t.

Every time I try, I am overwhelmed by images of Daniel Barden of Newtown Connecticut. I try to see Johnny, and I see Daniel.

When I try to write about my beautiful, brilliant, funny little Ellie, I keep seeing beautiful, brilliant, funny Jaime Guttenberg who died in Parkland, Florida.

I’m sure that I’ll be back soon. I’ll write funny little tales about the kids and about aging not-so-gracefully.

But for now.

I can’t stop screaming.

I’ll be part of the “March For Our Lives” on March 24.  I hope you will be out there, too.


Here’s a Challenge

Donald J. Trump, the man whose “bone spurs” kept him out of the military, just told a room full of American governors that if he had been there, he would have run right into the school where bullets were ripping people apart. In fact, he said,

‘I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon’

What do I say about such an outrageously stupid comment? Most people move past their superhero fantasies by the time they reach High School. The proof of Trump’s arrested development and pathetic self-aggrandizing is part of my visceral reaction of disgust to these comments.

But more enraging to me is the fact that this overweight, out of shape, coddled, spoiled, rich brat of an old man can say anything he wants, because he will never, ever have to prove it.

On the other hand, if he sticks a gun into the hands of a classroom teacher, that teacher may very well have to prove their courage or die in the attempt.

What a pile of bloviating, steaming, fly infested bull shit.

So I have a challenge for Trump. I’ll issue the same one to Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch, those shameless apologist whores for the NRA.  All three of them have called for arming teachers in order to protect our students from the bullets being sprayed out by military weapons.

I challenge all three of these people to take up a gun themselves.

I challenge all three of them to take part in a simulated active shooter drill. They should carry a loaded gun in a classroom.  The classroom would be filled with real, live, active, bouncy, excitable children. Like most classrooms in this country, it would be overcrowded.

I’d put them in a sixth grade class, since sixth grade is halfway through our public school experience. The kids would have all of the real issues of real kids. ADHD, learning disabilities, anxiety, hearing loss, physical disabilities, crazy-out-of-control hormones, allergies, divorced parents, hunger, poverty, autism….You know. The regular public school classroom.

I would ask Loesch, LaPierre and Trump to teach math, science, literature, social interactions, civics and history to those kids for a few weeks. They would need to manage recess, lunch, homework corrections, testing, lesson planning, modification of the curriculum to meet the needs of each child.  You know, a regular public school teacher’s job.

At some point when they least expect it, the school should be fake attacked, with a bad guy breaking into the classroom.

Let’s see how well the three Stooges would do in countering an attack with an AR-15 (armed with blanks, of course! We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone!).

Is there anyone on earth who really thinks they would manage to calmly organize the kids, face the shooter and get off a shot? A killing shot?

I dare them.

I challenge them.

Let them try take on this challenge before they have the unmitigated gall to tell me that my daughter needs to carry loaded weapon in her classroom.

If they don’t, then they really need to shut the fuck up and find a REAL solution.


Put up or shut up, you big fat jackass.


THIS is the kind of thing I’d like to see these idiots try.

Proof That Concealed Permit Holders Live In a Dream World

Parental Sacrifice

Remember when your kids were little? It was funny, annoying and sweet to catch yourself making ridiculous sacrifices for them.

I know in my house we sacrificed our precious sleep just to keep those little cuties alive. I bet you did, too!

We sacrificed our date nights when we couldn’t find sitters. We sacrificed our weekends to hockey tournaments and band practice and girl scout camping trips. That’s what adults do for kids! We set aside our own needs and preferences for the children who depended on us.

Whether it was the pulp in our orange juice or the crunch in our peanut butter, we were willing to give up our own pleasures to keep our kids happy.

As a teacher, I remember sacrificing my lunch break for kids who needed someone to talk to. We all sacrificed our weekends to lesson plans so that the kids would have the best week possible.

That’s what adults do. That is how every species has managed to survive. We sacrifice our own needs so that the next generation can thrive.

I know that if someone told me that I should give up a dangerous vice in order to protect our children, I would do it. I have skipped that glass of wine with dinner so I could safely drive the kids to a lesson or a game. I have given up the warmth and comfort of our wood stove, knowing that it made it harder for the kids to breathe.

Adults are genetically predisposed to protect children.

So if I was a person who really had a fabulous time juggling hand grenades, I’d be willing to give that up if I knew it might hurt the kids in my neighborhood. If I was a driver who really enjoyed driving a tank around town, I’d grudgingly stop doing it in order to prevent kids from getting squished.

This is what human being are designed to do. We are designed to protect our children.


Why do the “I really have a good time shooting my AR-15” people think that their “fun” is more important than the lives of our kids? It makes no sense. It defies logic.

I know that if I could save the life of one child by giving up my TV, I’d do it. If I could save the lives of a dozen kids by giving up my laptop, it would be gone. Save a hundred kids by giving up my car? Yup, you can have it.

Save thousands of kids every single year by giving up my assault weapon?

Why would any human being say no to that?

I don’t know how these people sleep at night.

Oh, Those Kids Today

You know what I loved about teaching? It wasn’t the enormous salary or the fabulous overtime pay. It wasn’t the big clunky desk with the three stuck drawers, or the little bathroom that I shared with 25 other adults of both genders.


I didn’t love teaching because the 14 meetings a week were so riveting or because the sound of the copy machine was music to my ears. It wasn’t the 15 minute lunches eaten at my desk or the joy of lugging 20 pound curriculum boxes up and down stairs.

None of that was what kept me teaching for three decades.

I loved teaching because there is nothing as exciting as watching children discover their inner power. I loved being in the presence of children who were learning to stretch their tender wings. Watching them learn to take risks, to open themselves to the possibility of failure, to push themselves to take on challenges that loomed so large in front of them…those were the moments that made me catch and hold my breath. Those were the moments that brought tears to my eyes.


Children grow, and stretch and carefully inch their way into adulthood. They do it with joy and fear and a constant sense of wonder. When you are in the presence of children, you are filled with the sense of the possible.

In the past week, I have watched hundreds of children turn their rage and their grief into powerful action. The young people of Parkland Florida have humbled me and brought me to tears over and over again. They are articulate, using the force of all that emotion to perfectly express what so many of us have been feeling for years.

They are unfiltered, because they are honest. They don’t know how to twist the truth of what they lived. They don’t try. They lived through their worst nightmares, and they are determined to make us understand what that was like for them.

They are powerful. They believe that they can change the world, so they will. They are still innocent enough to believe that there is justice in this country, so I will believe that for them. They have faith that there is honor in those who sit in our seats of power. But they are wise enough to know that if that honor doesn’t shine at this terrible moment, those seats can be taken away.

Like every one of the children I taught, these young people humble me.

The future belongs to them, and they are beginning to understand that. The students of Parkland, Florida, the students of my home state of Massachusetts, the students in Newtown Connecticut…all of them lift me up. They give me the courage to stand beside them, to keep on fighting, to speak truth to corrupt power.

Children are what keeps this very sad, discouraged old teacher lady going.

Kids today.

Thank the good Lord in Heaven for kids today.


How Do You Sleep At Night?


Dear NRA leaders, lobbyists and supporters,

No. I do not want to see guns brought into our schools. I do not want my former colleagues to be armed on the playground.

No. I do not want soldiers, swat teams or retired service people stationed around my local school. I do not want my daughter to have an armed guard outside of her classroom door.

Want to know why?

1. Kids are unpredictable

Sometimes the people who are killed by the guns are killed by accident. You know, the 7 year old with ADHD who pulled the fire alarm at my school could just as easily have grabbed a gun out of a pocket, a drawer or a holster.

If you think it makes sense to bring more deadly weapons into our classrooms, I have one question for you.

How do you sleep at night?

2. Humans are fragile

I have had students with severe emotional disabilities. Wonderful, smart, beautiful children who have struggled with anxiety, depression, PTSD, even psychosis and schizophrenia.

I have had colleagues who have struggled with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder.

Sometimes humans, even the little ones, become overwhelmed and think that suicide is the right answer. Sometimes they act out. Sometimes they even succeed.

If you believe that adding loaded guns into this type of setting is a good idea, I have one question for you.

How do you sleep at night?

3. Schools are big places

There are a whole bunch of you out there trying to convince us that armed guards outside of our schools would keep us safer. But how many guards are you planning to add? Do you want to put one outside the front door? My classroom was just inside of a side door.

So what if we put a guard outside of every side door? Do we need one at the loading dock, too? How about the gym? The kitchen has an access door, too.

Snipers on the roof, maybe?

Couldn’t a bad guy with one of those awful guns shoot out our windows? Do you we want guards all along the streets that surround the school?

Would you want to put an armed guard outside of every classroom? Every three classrooms?

What do we do about recess?

If you think placing armed guards in schools can help protect us, I have just one question for you.

How do you sleep at night?

4. Should guns be visible or concealed?

This one is tricky, right?

Let’s start with the idea of arming teachers. Let me imagine myself in my fifth grade classroom. If my gun is loaded and on my body, I’d theoretically be ready to shoot the bad guy, right?

But if I want to get my gun and shoot before I”m killed it would have to be readily available. I guess it would be in a holster on my chubby hip. As a middle aged woman kneeling down to work with the kids, I often banged my hip on a desk or chair. Sometimes I dropped my pen, my notebook or my text book as I moved from desk to desk.

Sometimes I had to climb up on chairs or counters to set up the classroom or get materials ready.

Imagine all that with a loaded gun.

Bad plan.

So if its a bad idea to have a gun right on my hip, what about if it is kept in a drawer in my desk?

My unlocked desk, where I rarely sat because I was busy teaching. I guess at the sound of gunshots from outside my classroom I would shut off the lights, lock the door, gather the kids in our safe spot and grab my gun out of my desk. Unless I had put the gun in a place where a kid couldn’t grab it either accidentally or on purpose.

In which case I’d have to dig around for a bit while the AR-15 was shooting outside my door.

Great idea, you say?

How do you sleep at night?

5. Schools are NOT prisons

Teachers are not first responders. Children are not inmates.

Schools, when they work well, are centers of community life. They are places of thought, of friendship, of social engagement.

In healthy schools, teachers and children feel safe and respected. They share a sense of community and belonging.

It seems obvious to this former teacher that spending all day in the presence of armed guards would make it impossible to feel anything but trapped and under siege.


If you honestly believe that the best we can do to protect our children is to keep them under armed guard, rather than taking away the danger that faces them, I would ask you this one simple question.

How the hell do you sleep at night?